King Spruce (Holman Day, 1908)

Dwight Wade, high school principal, is in love with John Barrett’s daughter Elva. Barrett and Pulaski Britt are great lumber magnates. Wade disapproves of their wasteful methods that are killing the forests. Forced to resign, Wade takes a forestry job with Rodburd Ide. Colin MacLeod, Britt’s boss, is in love with Ide’s daughter Nina and jealous of Wade.

It’s been many years since Barrett has seen his woods. This year, he makes the trip. He’s stayed away because “Ladder” Lane, the fire lookout, knows his secret: that he stole Lane’s wife, she became pregnant, and he abandoned the child with a camp of squatters. Kate Arden is the girl’s name (it sounds like Katahdin, the tallest mountain in Maine. The Abenaki considered it the home of the gods, particularly Gluskabe, the trickster god). When Britt’s crew come to evict the squatters, Kate sets fire to the forest. Lane takes Barrett captive and ties him up in the fire’s path. Wade finds him and frees him, getting his promise that he’ll pay for the girl’s education. Barrett reneges on this almost instantly.

Barrett grows dangerously ill and is taken into town, where he stays with Ide. Kate has also been staying with Nina. When Elva comes to see her father, she knows at once that Kate is her sister. Nina and Elva travel north to the lumber camp to talk with Wade, but Elva is kidnapped along the way by Lane. Lane is so enraged that he has a stroke and dies. Wade and his guide find Elva and rescue her.

Britt has dammed the stream that Ide depends on to get his lumber out. Tommy Eye, a teamster whose life Wade saved, dynamites the dam, draining the lake almost entirely down Ide’s stream and leaving no water at all for Britt. Humbled, Barrett consents to Wade and Elva’s marriage.

Inscriptions: On the reverse of the frontispiece (odd place to sign), “Irving A. Sorvino, Christmas 1919”.

The Seven That Were Hanged (Leonid Andreyev, 1908)

Five anarchists blow up a government official. The three men and two women are all tried and sentenced to death. Along with the conspirators are two common criminals guilty of murder to be hanged the same day. A very brief book, we spend a chapter on each in their holding cell, seeing how very differently they approach and compartmentalize the knowledge that they’re going to die, and how they do or don’t make peace with it.

Inscription: on the front endpaper, “Carleton McMillen Crick, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, August 18, 1941”.

The Last of the Plainsmen (Zane Grey, 1908)

Not exactly a biography of Buffalo Jones, the conservationist credited with saving the bison from extinction, although it is in a sideways manner. The book is an account of Zane Grey going to Arizona to meet Jones, the travails it took to get there, and what he saw in and around the Grand Canyon area catching cougars. Jones isn’t the focus but is present on every page and the story of his life seeps in through the travel narrative.

Lewis Rand (Mary Johnson, 1908)

In Virginia in the 1790s, Lewis Rand breaks from the tobacco planter life his father had intended for him to become a lawyer. He rises quickly in his field, and aided by his friend Thomas Jefferson, his political future in the Democratic-Republican party seems assured. He and Jacqueline Churchill fall in love and marry, much to the consternation of her Federalist family, and especially so to Ludwell Cary, who had hoped to marry her himself.

Rand falls under the spell of Aaron Burr and enlists in the conspiracy to establish an empire in the West. Before he takes the final step and ruins not only his own life but Jacqueline’s as well, Cary challenges him to a duel — the goal being to delay him long enough that the scheme unravels before Rand becomes too involved, and that’s just what happens.

Rand blames his foiled ambitions on Cary, and in a blind rage, kills him. There’s nothing that links Rand to the crime, and indeed he manages to establish a fairly convincing alibi. He escapes justice for several months, but Jacqueline’s pressing and his own conscious eventually lead to Rand giving himself up.

No inscriptions.

The Firing Line (Robert W. Chambers, 1908)

Landscaper Garrett Hamil falls in love with socialite Shelia Cardross, despite the most horrible, most terrible, blackest-of-black stain on her character: she’s adopted. She loves him too, but there’s another problemĀ — a slight indiscretion from her youth. When she first learned the devastating news that she was not her parents’ biological child, she married the first boy that presented himself, Louis Malcourt, so that she could have a legitimate name. It was never announced, never acted on, and they’ve kept it a secret for years. The man realizes it was a folly and has repeatedly told Shelia to divorce him, but she can’t bear the thought of it.

As her love for Garry grows, so does her temptation to get a divorce. To save herself, she publicly announces her first marriage and moves in with her husband — who still rather thinks it’s a bad idea. Garry takes deathly ill, and during his illness, Louis realizes how strongly Shelia still loves him. Louis quietly steps out one afternoon to a lonely place in the forest and shoots himself in the head.